The metaverse has captivated tech innovators around the world, not only because it offers fertile ground for value creation and new revenue streams, but also because it represents a lofty ambition for ubiquitous connectivity. The dream is that it allows you to enjoy digital services based on high quality connectivity wherever you are (home, office, bus, beach, etc.) without disconnecting, delaying or losing network-to-network quality.
The metaverse has the promise and potential to become an extension of people’s lives, opening the door to a parallel virtual reality where people could choose to live, work and play continuously in real time. Some describe it as the next generation of the internet – and certainly if done correctly – it could be just as disruptive if it lives up to its promises. However, it can only realize its true ambition if its relationship with ubiquitous connectivity, including 5G, Wi-Fi, fiber to the home, private networks, satellite broadband, etc., is strong. The network is where the metaverse lives, making it one of the essential elements for success. These experience-rich services will require a high-speed connection that can reliably support intensive and seamless on-demand experiences.
Because of this dependency relationship, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are in a unique position to activate and participate in the endless opportunities the metaverse has to offer. However, as CSPs seek to expand their offerings to meet customer demands, there are potential barriers to entry to consider when optimizing networks for the digital future.
According to a recent report from Amdocs, 41% of consumers think the metaverse is too early to jump into it, making it imperative to understand what drives consumer conservatism and plan how to allay their concerns. More than a third of consumers (37%) are concerned about security and identity theft risks in the metaverse. By comparison, a third (33%) think the cost of hardware is too high, and nearly a quarter (21%) think their internet can’t handle it. Fortunately, another advantage of 5G can help solve these problems.
A network adapted to manage the metaverse
In terms of ubiquitous connectivity, there are many wireless connectivity technologies today that need to be addressed. Bluetooth lacks range, speed and reliability. Current generations of Wi-Fi provide the required speed but suffer from congestion and high latencies once more devices are added.
FSCs will have the ability to act as aggregators for different types of networks. When it comes to ubiquitous connectivity, a seamless end-to-end customer experience will be an essential piece of the puzzle, whether coming from or coming from a network. Artificial intelligence (AI) and network governance will become increasingly important to manage this.
The dawn of autonomous 5G networks will arguably be one of the most critical pieces of this puzzle.
Why standalone 5G will be imperative
To take advantage of the full flexibility of standalone 5G, CSPs are exploring the idea of “cloudifying” their networks to support the kind of content-rich services expected in the future, both by scaling their core functions and by providing services to the periphery. This means adopting the cloud and accelerating 5G deployments will become imperative to stay relevant and secure market share when the metaverse comes to town.
With 5G, networks can provide ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC) while addressing quality of service (QoS) issues and ensuring continuous quality of experience through dedicated slices of service. The metaverse will require high throughput, and URLLC means the network is optimized to handle very large volumes of data packets with extremely low delay tolerance. This means zero buffering and an unprecedented level of real-time capability imperative in VR experiences. With 5G, service delivery, QoS management, and digital asset monetization are achievable if networks prioritize the steps necessary to bring it to the level of ubiquitous connectivity required for the metaverse.
Bundle costs to make the metaverse worthwhile
Currently, the Metaverse is heavily dependent on VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality) technologies and devices to access it. Therefore, it will likely make more business sense for big tech companies to pay for building the infrastructure and for consumers to pay for the hardware (like VR/AR sets) and access to the infrastructure ( through telecom payments). Like paying a phone, cable, or streaming platform bill today, consumers could add a metaverse bill to their monthly expenses in the future, opening the door to more revenue streams for CSPs. And “access devices” will improve over time, eventually becoming a fashion accessory much like phones did.
66% of consumers are willing to pay more for a cloud gaming subscription if it’s paired with a dedicated 5G connection, and 78% are willing to pay at least $10. This means cost concerns could be alleviated for consumers if they were assured they would have the 5G speed and ubiquitous connection to make the Metaverse worthwhile.
Offering metaverse-style bundles would allow operators to tap into the experience services market and reduce costs for consumers by providing bundled services that guarantee network speed and latency. For example, creating a package might include everything a customer needs to enjoy an immersive metaverse experience: from a connection that seamlessly transitions from indoor wireless access to outdoor coverage to hardware accessories needed like VR/AR headsets. Operators could even bundle a subscription with a headset and connection for a specialty event or partnership, such as an all-season pass for MLB, NFL, NBA, etc.
All roads lead to ubiquitous connectivity
Reducing barriers to entry for consumers will be key to making the metaverse a thriving ecosystem. The most pressing issue is to provide ubiquitous “metaverse-level” connectivity. The flexibility to scale the high throughput and low latency benefits of 5G will go a long way towards achieving this, eliminating barriers to adoption for consumers.